Can you claim auto insurance if it’s your fault? (Expert Claims Advice)

You can claim auto insurance if it's your fault, and in most cases you should. An at-fault accident can increase your car insurance rates by up to $119/month. You'll also have to pay a deductible for damage to your car if you have collision coverage.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Jun 17, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Your car insurance policy is designed to protect you from losses above the norm; regardless of fault in many situations
  • If you claim auto insurance and it’s your fault, your insurance may be required to cover the other party’s loss
  • However, your insurance provider will also provide coverage for any damages you incur, minus any applicable deductible
  • During the claim process, your insurance provider will request additional details about the incident and anyone involved
  • If you have questions about how your insurance protects you in the event of a loss, speak to your insurance provider about your policy coverage

When you are at fault for damages to your vehicle, it does not change the fact that you need to get your vehicle repaired or replaced. However, you may be wondering — can I claim auto insurance if it’s your fault? If you need to file an auto insurance claim regardless of fault, there are some steps you need to take. We’ll help you to understand them.

Your car insurance policy is designed to protect you from losses that are above and beyond normal wear-and-tear to your vehicle. This coverage includes damages that you may be responsible for but falls within the realm of what your provider covers.

Knowing what happens if you are at fault in a car accident can not only save you time and money down the road but will give you peace of mind now.

If you are looking to compare auto insurance rates after an at-fault claim, just enter your ZIP code above to use our FREE online comparison tool.

Claiming Auto Insurance Coverage After an Accident

You just got into a car accident, and as far as you can tell, your vehicle will need repairs. But what happens when you have a car accident and it’s your fault? Can you claim insurance if it was your fault?

Filing a Car Insurance Claim Overview
TopicDetailsFrom Experts..
What states are at-fault?Most states are at-fault, with the exception of Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah.Insurance Information Institute
How long do I have to file a claim?The statute of limitations is 2 years and up to 6 years in some states.Find Law
What is my deductible?Most common deductibles for car insurance are $250, $500, and $1,000.Insurance Information Institute
Do I need to file a claim for a minor accident?You need to file if someone/someone else's property is damaged. You can also pay for minor car repairs out-of-pocket.Find Law
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The table above defines some terms that we will be discussing later. In this section, we’ll cover the basics to ease your mind and help you determine the appropriate coverage levels.

The video below discusses some insurance needs and tips.

When you are involved in an accident with another driver, one of the first steps is determining fault for the accident. You may be wondering: Should I file a claim with my auto insurance or theirs? Even before the fault determination is made, you can still file a claim.

If you are determined to be the at-fault party in the incident, your insurance provider should still help you recover from the loss.

During the claim process, your insurance provider will look at your insurance coverage to determine what options you have for your claim. Your vehicle may be protected in many situations, if you carry a policy with a variety of coverage options, such as:

An at-fault accident insurance claim can still financially benefit you, but if you only have minimal coverage on your policy, then your vehicle may not be protected in the event of the loss.

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Can you get compensation if the accident was your fault?

Can I claim auto insurance if it’s my fault? Filing a claim on your policy can occur regardless of who is at fault. If you are at fault for an accident or unexpected loss, your insurance provider may still be able to help you recover from the incident.

So, insurance-wise, what to do after a car accident that’s your fault? The first step is to file a claim. Keep reading to dig into key facts surrounding how to claim insurance if it’s your fault.

First Steps to File a Car Insurance Claim

In this section, we will discuss some basics of filing a claim if it’s your fault. The table below provides background on average claim amounts, to give you a better picture of what your own claim may look like.

Average Auto Insurance Liability Claims and the Affect on Annual Auto Insurance Rates
Filing a Claim SummaryAmount
Average liability claim for property damage$3,638
Average liability claim for bodily injury$15,270
Average auto insurance rate increase after an at-fault accident$1,000
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Whether or not you are at fault in an accident scenario, it is probably a good idea to call your insurance company. Determining whether or not you’re at fault is a decision that can be made by your insurance company.

After calling your insurance company, follow the steps listed below.

These will help ensure that your claim is verified through your insurance company, and fault can be properly determined.

Get into a fender bender on the way to work? It’s time to take action, which requires following specific steps directly afterward.

What to do after a car accident that’s your fault? Below are the procedures we recommend.

Do Not Admit Fault

You just got into an accident where someone collided with your vehicle. Remember, the clock starts running at the moment of an accident and ends at a definite date in the future.

Your rational mind may take the backseat, causing you to wonder: If someone hit my car, do I call my insurance or theirs? Call yours, but don’t admit fault.

It’s best to leave the decision of who is at fault to your insurance company. It is them you should call after an accident.

Your insurance company only represents you, and you only. By calling the other party’s insurer, you run the risk of a claim denial or being held at fault for the accident. What you say after an accident can be held up in court. As time passes and memories fade, the only true evidence comes from witnesses, photos, medical records, and your word.

So, if someone hits my car, whose insurance do I call? My own.

Do Exchange Information

Wondering how you will get back in touch with the other party involved in the accident? First, you should exchange insurance information and phone numbers.

It’s also an excellent idea to take a photo of their drivers’ license. You should also get the names of witnesses, if any.

Do Take Pictures

Today, smartphones have the ability to document everything and anything with the press of a button. It’s important to take photos of the damage to your vehicle, as well as any skid marks or damage to the road.

Some auto insurance companies even offer apps where you can take and submit photos of the damage to receive a quick estimate. However, be wary of the accuracy of the estimate as this Inside Edition clip reports.


You’ll still want to take pictures of your vehicle because your insurance company can use these photos to document the extent of the damage and add them to your claim’s file.

Do Document Your Medical Expenses

A lawyer will tell you that it’s highly important to document any medical expenses after an accident. Emergency room visits, physical therapy appointments, or any referrals to other care you received should be kept in a journal or electronic document.

These medical expenses are important both for your personal records and for your insurer, attorney, and the court.

Should I file an auto insurance claim?

You should file a claim if anyone is seriously injured. You should also file a claim if you believe you were the victim of negligence on another driver’s behalf. If your vehicle has been totaled, you should file a claim.

Whether your state relies on the traditional tort liability or no-fault, filing a claim is the first step.

For states with traditional tort liability laws, there are no restrictions on lawsuits. This also allows for what we know as “at fault” laws.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the no-fault system operates in 12 states. It pays out claims by taking small claims out of the courts, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This is intended to lower the cost of insurance premiums. Each insurance company then returns money to its own policyholders for the cost of minor injuries, regardless of who was at fault.

When Not to File an Auto Insurance Claim

In some scenarios, filing a claim is not necessary. These are usually minor accidents where no other party was involved, and the individual can easily pay to replace or repair whatever damages out-of-pocket.

In this section, we will examine some scenarios when it might be acceptable not to file a claim.

There Is Only Damage to Your Vehicle

Scratch your own vehicle or get into a fender bender with a mailbox? Filing a claim might not be necessary.

Consider this scenario. You caused some damage to your own vehicle, with scratches and dents totaling $450 dollars. The issue is, your insurance deductible requires you to pay out $500 before they’ll cover anything. In this case, paying for it yourself is best.

Damage to the Other Property is Minimal

If you scraped your vehicle on a guard rail, maybe it is best to settle this out-of-pocket. The reasoning behind this is that damages so minor may not match your deductible.

While some scenarios are severe and require a claim, less serious incidents do not require the same action. In this section, you will learn about when it is necessary to file a claim, and when it’s best to settle — with the other party’s consent — on your own.

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Deductibles & Coverage

When you file a claim for damages to your vehicle, you will usually have a deductible to pay before your coverage applies. The deductible is the amount you are required to handle from a covered loss.

Your provider may require the payment up-front, or they may deduct the amount from your covered loss. For example, if you are involved in an accident, your insurance provider may determine that the damage to your vehicle is $1,000. If you carry a deductible of $500, then you may be required to pay that amount before your provider covers the remaining $500 of the loss.

Your insurance provider may also opt to take your total loss amount, minus your deductible, and pay you the difference. Higher deductibles may lower your premiums.

Every insurance provider is different, meaning that your provider may have other rules or guidelines in place for how they handle claims and deductibles.

If you have questions about how your provider handles these types of incidents, be sure to speak with them before a loss occurs.

Non-Accident Related Damages

Being in an accident with another driver is not the only time your vehicle may be damaged.

You may be wondering if you are at fault when an accident happens that’s out of your control. You may not even be inside of the vehicle. There are many unforeseen or unexpected events that can occur, such as weather-related damages or animal-related damages — will car insurance cover hitting a dog?

There are also unexpected events that can occur that you may be responsible for.

For instance, if you are working on your landscaping, you may decide to trim tree branches around your home. If your car is parked outside while you are trimming these branches, one could accidentally fall on your car.

If you carry comprehensive coverage, for this specific scenario, then your provider may be able to help you recover from the loss.

Just like collision losses, your comprehensive losses will often carry an insurance deductible. Your provider may require you to pay this amount before covering your loss, or they may deduct this amount from any claim settlement amount.

If you have questions about how your coverage or deductible will apply to a loss, speak to your insurance provider about your policy terms.

Single-Car Accident Claims

You may be wondering, if I damage my own car can I claim on my insurance?

In the case of a single-car accident, you may still be determined at fault for the damages — even though there was no other driver involved. If this occurs, your insurance provider will often still require you to file a claim and proceed through the claim process.

Several scenarios can lead up to a single-car accident, causing you to wonder if you actually are covered. The table below summarizes the types of single-car accidents from FindLaw.

Single-Car Accident Scenarios
Types of Single-Car AccidentSingle-Car Accident ExamplesAre you at fault?
Vehicle defectsFaulty brakes, poor alignment, manufacturer's defectsNo, you can file a product liability lawsuit in most states.
Poor road design/maintenanceStoplight malfunctioning, poor road designs, failure to maintain roadwaysPossibly, but you could sue the city or government entity, but lawyer is recommended.
An unavoidable accidentSwerving to avoid a cyclist or biker in the wrong lane, causing you to crashNot necessarily. It depends on your state's negligence laws.
DUIRunning into a parked carYes, you will have to pay restitutions even for stationary objects (parked car, stop signs).
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The table above shows the types of scenarios involving a single car. If you find yourself in any of these situations, it’s good to be aware of when you are not at fault.

If you get into a single-car accident, you may be wondering: Can I keep the insurance money and not fix my car?

You could theoretically cash out and receive the money as compensation, but you must accept fault first. Then, the claim is filed against your own policy.

Instead of having to pay your body shop, it is possible to put this claim money in the bank. However, you will still need to pay your deductible before you can get these funds.

The video below shows a few scenarios where you would not be held at fault.

It’s very likely you will be held at fault for the accident most of the time.

Statute of Limitations and Auto Insurance Claims

If you’ve ever been in a minor accident, you know what it was like to be on the fence about filing a claim.

Now that you’ve read about filing a claim, deductibles, and more, it’s time to discuss how long you have to act after an accident takes place. How long can an auto insurance claim be open? Each state has its own statutes of limitations, each corresponding to different types of claims.

Most states have a window of two to three years to settle your car insurance claim.

If you file after the window of the statute of limitations, the court will reject your claim, even if you only miss the deadline by a few days.

They may vary from homeowner’s insurance, health insurance, or car insurance claims. For the purpose of this section, we will be focusing on statutes (by state) for car insurance only.

It turns out that only 12 states in the U.S. have laws for no-fault, which means that each party’s own insurance companies pay for the damages.

States With Fault, No-Fault, and Add-On Auto Insurance
True no-fault statesTraditional tort liabilityAdd-on
FloridaAlabamaArkansas
HawaiiAlaskaDeleware
KansasArizonaD.C.
KentuckyCaliforniaMaryland
MassachusettesColoradoNew Hampshire
MichiganConnecticutOregon
MinnesotaGeorgiaSouth Dakota
New JerseyIdahoTexas
New YorkIllinoisVirginia
North DakotaIdahoWashington
PennsylvaniaIndianaWisconsin
Iowa
Louisiana
Maine
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Mexico
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vermont
West Virginia
Wyoming
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The table above is an example of states using no-fault, traditional tort liability, and “add-ons.” Add-ons, which are available in some states, allows adding personal injury protection (PIP) to auto insurance policies without limiting an injured party’s right to sue in tort.

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Do you call insurance if you’re at fault?

One key piece of advice about filing claims? It is always best to report an accident.

Doing so ensures that you won’t be sued weeks later by another party and that your insurance company knows to gather the time-sensitive information required to properly represent you.

Should I call my insurance if it wasn’t my fault? If someone hit my car, whose insurance do I call? Even if you’re not at fault and believe the other person’s company should pay, you should still notify your insurance company, In case of a fault dispute, you will want them on your side. They can also help you to understand what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault and how to dispute a car accident fault determination.

It’s not unusual to be involved in a car accident where no one admits fault. Insurance companies will investigate and make a determination, and your insurance company will help you regardless of the decision.

For example, if you file a not at fault collision claim with Geico, your insurance company, and the other driver has State Farm, those two companies will each help their own customer through the process.

Will causing an accident affect my rates?

Don’t worry if you have caused an accident. Even though the situation has the potential to increase rates, the risks of not filing a proper claim could be even more detrimental to your policy’s rates.

One rule of thumb is that an accident has the potential to impact your rates for three years after the accident.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rate Increase Amount With One Accident
CompaniesClean recordWith one accidentAmount of Annual Auto Insurance Increase
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24$582.56
Geico$2,145.96$3,192.77$1,046.81
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$1,029.14
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95$650.77
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$574.83
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04$1,383.95
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74$842.05
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73$1,058.13
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68$1,167.78
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$1,430.48
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As you can see in the table above, going from a clean record to an accident can result in an average $1,000 rate increase. That’s something to think about.

When investigating your claim, insurance adjusters will look out for policy violations, which include but are not limited to the list below.

  • Delayed notice
  • Concealment of material facts
  • Misrepresentations on the application
  • Conditions that might have been violated
  • Misrepresentation to the adjuster about the extent/cause of the loss
  • The loss is not within the policy term

We’ve focused on what happens when a car accident is your fault, but we want to quickly touch on what happens when it’s not your fault before we wrap this up.

How does car insurance work when you are not at fault?

Depending on your state’s laws, and the protection of a lawyer, there’s a chance you can prove the collision was the result of someone else’s negligence or a vehicle defect. In that case, the state overseeing authorities or third-party’s insurance would cover your expenses.

We hope that you have enjoyed this free guide to making a car insurance claim if it was your fault.

No matter who was at fault, after an accident you may want to find a new insurance company. Start comparison shopping today for auto insurance rates! Enter your ZIP code below to get started.

 

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